This past weekend, I attended the Women of Joy Conference in San Antonio. Three days, two nights, music, stories, sermons, fellowship and faith, in a convention center full of 4,000 female personalities ranging from birth to menopause and up. Wow. Wow. Wow.
The weekend began on Friday, when my mom, sister (Jennifer), Amanda (my other “sister”), Amanda’s mom, Glenda, and I all piled in my mom’s suburban to set off for San Antonio. We stopped outside of Bastrop to eat at Chili’s, then took the longest, roughest, guaranteed-to-frustrate-you-because-you’re-sure-to-get-stuck-behind-Farmer-Joe-out-for-his-afternoon-drive road. (Note to self: avoid 304 in the future.) Of course, being the control-freak that I am, I insisted on driving. I think I was secretly trying to test my own patience. We arrived in San Antonio around 4pm and checked into the historic Menger Hotel. I’m told it’s haunted, which fascinates me, but alas, I saw no ghosts (…and I was really hoping to see Babe Ruth). I remained in the room to snooze a bit before the night’s festivities began while my roommates went to trek around the River Center Mall.
Around 6:30pm, our church group (22 of us) headed over to the Gonzales Convention Center. The two-block hike wasn’t bad, but my feet don’t like the new blisters as a result of wearing heels. And as long as I’m being honest, I may as well tell you that my heart wasn’t quite in the spirit of the weekend yet. I was expecting to see a bunch of hugging, crying, praying and witnessing. Well, I did see some of that. And what my heart and soul witnessed gave me so much more.
Charles Billingsley was our worship leader/entertainer/host for the weekend. He has one of the most beautiful, powerful voices I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. And being a singer, I am veeeerrry critical about what pleases my ear. (One of the first things I did when I got home on Sunday was find him on iTunes and download his latest album.) At first, it was a little awkward standing amongst a bunch of strangers and learning to sing songs I wasn’t familiar with. Admittedly, I’m not really comfortable waving my hands in the air to embrace the Holy Spirit. That has always seemed a bit ostentatious to me. No offense to those of you who do it, I just don’t get into it. My worship style is a bit more reserved and private. But, the spirit in the room was electric. Absolutely buzzing with emotion. Following the music, our guest speaker of the evening, Sarah Palin, delivered a very compelling, inspirational speech about how we need God back in the hearts of the American people. Funny, witty and sharp as a whip, Mrs. Palin captivated the crowd with her message. I don’t care what your political views are, but I whole-heartedly agree with the concept of re-establishing a strong foundation of belief in God to help lead and heal this nation. Mrs. Palin hit the nail head on. I sincerely wish everyone could’ve had the privilege to get a glimpse into her heart like I did. It was riveting, and highly motivating. One of my favorite quotes in her speech was, “Over-comers are visionaries, not victims.” I choose to be a visionary.
Saturday morning began with more music and great ministry messages from Liz Curtis Higgs and Becky Tirabassi. Both of them were fantastic speakers, each with her own dynamic style of reining in the crowd's attention. We had a seven-hour stretch of free time from 12-7pm, so we broke off to eat lunch and have some much-needed girl time. After a fabulous meal at The Original Mexican Restaurant on the River Walk, Mom, Jen and I went to see “Life As We Know It” at the movie theatre in the mall. What a heartwarming movie! And the fact that Josh Duhamel and Josh Lucas co-starred in the movie didn’t hurt either. I’m such a sucker for blue eyes. Following the movie, we did some shopping at the mall. The highlight of my day was the fun we had at the Disney Store and stopping for an Orange Julius. Yummy! I sooo wish we still had one of those around here. I feel so deprived.
Back in the hotel room following our shopping excursion, I caught some of the televised Texas A&M vs. Arkansas game. Mistake. Although it was fitting that I was at a Christian conference; I think it was appropriate to pray for my Aggies. At this point, a little divine intervention couldn’t hurt. After a short nap, our group got ready for the evening. Carol Kent gave a very influential message about overcoming difficult challenges. Her story struck such a chord with me. I bought three of her books, and I can’t wait to read “Between a Rock and a Grace Place”. Steven Curtis Chapman took the stage about 9:30pm. Oh. My. Goodness. Wow. The next time I see him in concert (and I will), I need to wear waterproof mascara. I had a hard time keeping my composure. My soul was so moved. I’m still awestruck.
After the concert, we all made our way back to the hotel. Mom, my cousin Karen, and I all sat in the Menger courtyard eating a late dinner and talking. I just love those deep conversations about life. It’s so nice to know that regardless of where you’ve been, or where you might be headed, someone supports you unconditionally. Sitting outside in the evening air, I could reach up and feel the breeze on my hand. Know what I felt? The face of God. He’s been there all along. He has my back. Last night, during a phone conversation with a good friend, I was reminded that the devil works his hardest to bring us down when we are so lifted in the spirit of God. I must be doing something right, for I can feel the devil tempting me to stray. Faced with those decisions, a new strength has emerged in me, allowing me to hold steady to my course instead of faltering. I am reminded of how far I have progressed to overcome my own adversities. Despite my struggles over the last year, I am eternally saved and blessed. I just can’t wait to see how God wants to use me.
Sunday morning we arose, packed our stuff to get ready to leave before we ventured to the final morning of the conference. (At this point, I still hadn’t seen any ghosts.) Charles Billingsley once again stole the show with his southern gospel/southern rock/groove and traditional montage of “I’ll Fly Away”. He had us rolling with laughter, swaying and clapping our hands. Priceless! Priscilla Shirer (father is Dr. Tony Evans) gave us a brilliant sermon. I reflected on how each speaker had her own exceptional style - each one equally effective, their message happily infecting every cell of my being.
On the way home, we stopped at the Chili’s outside of Seguin. I think I’ve had my fill of that place for a while. I chilled out in the backseat of the suburban while Mom drove us home. Listening to my iPod and watching the landscapes roll by, I thought about the events and the emotions the past weekend had embodied. Leaving behind a convention center full of thousands of strangers, I realized that we were not strangers after all. We were united sisters in Christ, bound by His love. I am comforted to know that the spirit is rejuvenated by at least 4,000 more souls with a passion for God, me being one of them. I’ve often heard the phrase, ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’. Well, my version is ‘Hell hath no fear like a woman fired up for God!’
Last week, I had an interview at Baylor University. As I waited in the reception area, I perused the Baylor viewbook. Next to one of the campus photos was a specific Bible verse that caught my eye. I made a quick note of it and it has been with me ever since… “For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:16-17) Beautiful words.
God created each of us for a specific purpose. While I have no reservations in admitting that I’d like to know from time to time which direction my life is heading, I’m glad that God is steering me down the right road. It’s nice to relinquish that control and know that someone else is holding it all together.